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Thursday, May 25, 2017

Valedictorians don't change the world

Research on the accomplishments of valedictorians and salutatorians show us a different kind of success than many would think.  This article followed 81 valedictorians and salutatorians through their career.  While major percentages of these former students have very successful and impressive careers, they don't typically become Steve Jobs or Elon Musk.  Their work doesn't change the world it's found to typically be more conventional and mundane then inventive and innovative.

That makes sense.  They are used to complying with school rules and doing what they are told by teachers.  They are not used to thinking outside the box, stirring the pot so to speak, to create change. In comparison Elon Musk has had plenty of failures   but his innovations (Tesla, Space X, SolarCity) are elevating his goal to change the world and placed him on Forbes list of the world's most powerful people.  One of his more recent inventions are roofing and window systems that act as solar cells, if that becomes affordable, energy companies will have serious competition.

Jobs, of course, dropped out of college and started Apple Computer and Pixar.  The point here is that our country is not the most powerful county on the planet because of raising compliant and duty bound valedictorians, but rather innovative and creative people the likes of Jobs and Musk.

So how do we encourage more innovation and creativity?  Stop giving A's for being a good student.  Grade on true accomplishments, not compliance.  Accelerate learning for those who already know the current topics.  But most of all encourage risk taking. If a student fails at homework assignments multiple times, yet at the end shows mastery of the subject, reward the growth, don't penalize the practice.  In our standards based system, that is the goal we should set for all students.  Struggle with content, master it, and then move on.  Marks on report cards (not grades) that reflect the eventual success in the subject are more meaningful than averaged grades that penalize the early struggles

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